The Holmdel Pop Warner Junior PeeWee Football Team lost their bid to claim the title of Eastern Regional Champions after losing to the Cannoneers from Lansdale, Pa., 12-0, in the semifinal regional game held in Easton, Pa. Winning the regional title would have provided the Junior PeeWee team a chance to travel to Disney World in Orlando, Fla., to face off against some of the best Pop Warner football teams in the country. Holmdel started its journey by ending their regular season at 9-0-1, capturing the Division B-North title. The first opponent Holmdel faced in the first round of playoffs was a tough Hillsborough Hills team, which Holmdel confidently handled in a 19-6 defeat. Holmdel then traveled to Jackson to face a fierce undefeated Rahway team and came up victorious in a 13-0 clash. The Holmdel defensive unit held Rahway to a negative 75 yards and did not give up a single first down. Holmdel went on to play Lansdale, Pa. in the Eastern Regional semifinals, on Nov. 23. It was a very close game despite the score of 12-0. Tony Carbone scored a touchdown in the first quarter, which was called back due to a penalty. Lansdale did not score until late in the second quarter making the score 6-0 at halftime. Holmdel had many chances to tie the game, especially in the third quarter when Holmdel advanced to Lansdale 17-yard line. The Hornets came up short and it was a dog fight until the last three minutes, when Lansdale scored the game-deciding touchdown with only 3:15 to go in the game, dashing Holmdel’s dreams of advancing. “We accomplished a lot for Holmdel Pop Warner. We won a division title, and two regional games to become New Jersey State Champions and building a great program for our town,” Couch Lou Quaglia said. “These kids have worked hard. They learned a lot of football with a lot of great coaches that worked hard with me and it showed on the field.” The 2002 Junior PeeWee team is the first team in Holmdel Pop Warner history to win two regional games and advance to the regional semifinals. Holmdel’s defense, nicknamed the “Wack Attack”, was pivotal in the success of the Hornets this year. They recorded nine shutouts this season, and only allowed a handful of first downs the whole season. Tony Carbone, Matt Menges, Dylan Murphy, Corey Downey, Kevin Gallogly, Carl Palo, Chris Marciano, Brandon Murray, Chris Falvo, Michael Biebel, Rocco Quaglia and Dan Mykityshyn anchored the defense. The offensive play of the Hornet squad was crucial to their success as well. Key players on the Holmdel offensive line include: Carl Palo, Steve McGrory, Matt Menges, Daniel Gordon, Rocco Quaglia, Kyle Mowery, Kevin Gallogly, Tom Baumlin, Joe Disco, Brian Decosta, Tommy Longo and Mark Sobel. Quaglia’s staff includes Mike Keating, Rick Rybakowski, Mark Biebel, Vic Falvo, Lou Menges, Eric Hernando and Steve “Pop” Cittadino.
BY VIN RAPOLLA Staff Writer BY VIN RAPOLLAStaff Writer Nothing has come easily to the Christian Brothers Academy cross country team this fall. The Monmouth County Championships proved to be no exception as the Colts needed to call on their strength in numbers to beat Colts Neck, 54-75, to claim their fifth consecutive title, on a rain-soaked Holmdel Park course that made footing treacherous. Colts Neck’s Craig Forys (16:42), winning a record-tying third straight victory, and teammate Brenden Krewer (16:48) went one-two for the Cougars giving them a big edge up top. But CBA countered by placing its top five runners from third to 17th to win its 32nd county championship. Chris Lombardi led the Colts in third place (16:49). Vin Ferrer was eighth (17:00) followed by Brandon Pierson in 11th (17:14). Rounding out the scorers were Ben Horel (17:33) and William Penney (17:35), who were 15th and 17th. Just 46 seconds separated the Colts’ top five runners. Middletown South was fifth (177), led by Pat Montalbano in 16th (17:34). Matawan was sixth (252) with Jake McCormack leading the Huskies in 19th (17:37). Holmdel’s Richie Greco put himself up with the county’s best, finishing seventh (16:57) and the Hornets were 11th (287). St. John Vianney’s James Coleman was 12th (17:19). The top 15 teams and top 25 individuals at the county championships qualified for Saturday’s Shore Conference Championships at Ocean County Park in Lakewood. Middletown North was the final team to punch its ticket to OCP, finishing 15th (380). Mater Dei sophomore Marie Walsh was second only to one of the country’s best harriers, Colts Neck’s Ashley Higginson. While Higginson toured the 5K Holmdel Park course solo (18:28), Walsh beat everyone else in the field with her 19:35. Teammate Liz Shaw was 11th (20:21), helping the Seraphs finish seventh (240) and qualify for the SC as a team. Middletown North’s Kristin Johnson (20:21) and Raritan’s Christine Altland (20:21) were 12th and 13th. St. John Vianney’s Chelsea Delaney (20:42) were 19th. The local teams that have qualified for the SC are: Middletown South (205), fifth, Middletown North (245), ninth, Raritan (274), 10th, Matawan (290), 11th, Holmdel (332), 13th and SJV (356), 14th. The Ocean County Championships were held Saturday at OCP. Jackson’s Chris Karle (15:31) won his second straight title and led the Jaguars to the team title with 59 points. On the girl’s side, Jackson’s Amanda Marino (17:51) was victorious while Monsignor Donovan won the team title over Jackson, 33-67. The talent at Saturday’s Shore Conference Championships will liken to that of a state championship meet. Six of the top 20 girls teams in the state will be going at it, including Monmouth County champion Colts Neck, top ranked in the state, and Ocean winner Mon Don. Marino and Higginson are the state’s two best harriers at this time. On the boy’s side, Jackson will be looking to dethrone CBA. The Jags topped the Colts at the Shore Coaches meet at the beginning of October, but that was a month ago and since then, the Colts have been gaining confidence. It’s still a tall task for CBA, but Jackson had better run well Saturday because the Colts have more balance. In Forys, the conference has the best runner in the state, who was ranked No. 4 in the country at the start of the cross country season.
BY WARREN RAPPLEYEAStaff Writer With a strong group of returnees back in the fold, the Raritan High School wrestling team’s goal is to successfully defend its Shore Conference Class A Central title. Last season the Rockets compiled a 19-4 mark, with two losses coming against mighty Jackson, and reached the finals of the NJSIAA Central Jersey Group II tourney before losing to Delaware Valley. Among the top returners are T.J. Mitchell, who will compete at 125 pounds, and sophomore Dan Seidenberg, who will wrestle at 160 pounds. Mitchell is a three-time District 22 champion, while Seidenberg captured the District 22 crown a year ago while competing at 140 pounds. Coach Rob Nucci is also looking for strong seasons from several seniors, including Greg Alexander (103 pounds), who was 16-13 last season; Kevin Moore (130), 11-5; and David Seidenberg, a District 22 champion in 2005 who was hampered by a broken ankle a year ago, but still managed to post a 19-4 mark. Junior Billy Voutsinas (13) went 27-6 a year ago, while fellow juniors Bob Kolb (135) went 21-10 and Bob Hornacek (140) was 11-2. Dan Bilowus (171), was 10-14 and should be more effective this time out, Nucci said. Sophomore Cody Mooney (119) is coming off a 17-13 campaign. “The last few years we’ve had key injuries that have hampered us,” Nucci said. “Right now I think we’re on the verge of being one of the top teams in the Shore — that’s no small accomplishment for a Group II school — but we need to stay healthy.” Other members of the Rockets include senior Chris Mooney (189), juniors Brian Whalen (135), Ryan Putnam (140), Pat Susino (152) and John Boyle (215); along with sophomores Jonathan DeAngelis (112), Chris van Sechtman (112), Nick Hungerford (171), Aaron Creuz (189) and Matt Walsh (HW). “We have good depth but they don’t have a lot of varsity experience,” the coach said. “That will change this season.” Raritan also had an outstanding turnout. Sixty-seven grapplers, including 28 freshmen, are now in the Rockets’ program. While the varsity’s success in recent years has certainly spurred interest, Nucci credited Hazlet’s recreation program, now in its seventh year, and the Middle School program with developing and teaching younger wrestlers. “Our whole town has been very supportive,” he said. “Kids learn the fundamentals early, and by the time they get to high school they’re pretty advanced.” To help celebrate the program’s success, Nucci said an Alumni Day will be held Dec. 30 in conjunction with the Rockets’ match against Matawan. Past Rocket competitors will be honored and a history of the program will be displayed. The day begins with Hazlet recreation wrestlers competing against their counterparts from Matawan. Middle school teams from the respective towns will then take to the mats, followed by the junior varsity match and then the varsity event. “It will be a fun day for our program, and because it’s being held over the holiday break, we’re hoping to have a big crowd,” Nucci said. The Raritan varsity opens its season Dec. 15-16 at the Richmond Invitational in Virginia. The Rockets return home on Dec. 19 to host RBC and will visit St. John Vianney on Dec. 23. In addition, Raritan will go to the Manchester Hawk Tournament on Dec. 28. BY WARREN RAPPLEYEA Staff Writer
The Brookdale Community College women’s basketball team skipped the appetizers and went straight to the main course. Above: Brookdale Community College’s Victoria Finelli (33) tries to rein in a rebound against Cumberland County College during a home game Dec. 10. Left: Brookdale’s Michelle Blum (10) shoots from the foul line during the game. With just one starter returning and eight freshmen on the team, head coaches Marianne Campacci and Joanne Cobb did what most coaches in their position would not have done. Rather than scheduling a few easy games early while their young team got its feet wet, the Jersey Blues’ coaches threw the players into the deep end of the pool, scheduling a strong Division II team, Delaware Tech-Stanton, for the opening game of the 2009-10 season. “We said let’s challenge ourselves and see what we have,” said Campacci. What the coaches discovered in Brookdale’s 62-61 home victory is that they have another championship-caliber basketball team. On the strength of their win over Delaware Tech and a 7-0 start to the season, the Jersey Blues are ranked No. 9 in the nation among Division III junior colleges and they are moving up. PHOTOS BY CHRIS KELLY staff On Dec. 10 the Jersey Blues beat No. 5 Cumberland, 72- 40, in Lincroft to further solidify their national ranking and to take the early lead in the Garden State Athletic Conference. Campacci and Cobb knew that in preseason camp the young players’ personalities had meshed. What remained to be seen was how they would click in a game. The answer was very well. Brookdale pulled off its 62-61 win over Delaware Tech by making big plays in the final seconds. First, Michelle Blum (Howell) canned a jumper with :17 left to break a 59-59 tie. With :12 remaining, Victoria DeTata (Brick Township) came up with a steal and passed the ball to Ria Zanetich (Point Pleasant), who was fouled. Zanetich made one of two free throws to give the Jersey Blues a 62-59 cushion. Delaware Tech scored at the buzzer to make the final score 62-61. It was nice for the coaches to find out early in the season that the Jersey Blues have players who can step up when a game is on the line. “It is important to know we can do it,” said Camapcci. It was no surprise that Blum and DeTata made the big plays. DeTata, a freshman, is the Jersey Blues’ floor general. “She’s like a coach on the floor,” Campacci said of her point guard. “She sets the stage.” DeTata is third on the team in scoring (11.1 ppg.) and assists (5.0 apg.). She also plays the point on the team’s full-court press. Blum, a sophomore who missed last year because of injury and is with the Jersey Blues for the first time, is the ideal No. 2 guard. She can knock down a jumper as she did against Delaware Tech. Many people would be surprised to see that she leads the team in steals with 14 through the first seven games. She is averaging 11.5 ppg., second best on the team. Another freshman, Brielle Martinez (Hamilton), has been making a big impact. She leads the team in scoring (12.8 ppg.) and is Brookdale’s top rebounder (10.7 rpg.). Kaitlin McLaughlin (Manasquan) is the lone returner from last year’s 21-4 squad and can play inside or outside. At 5-11, McLaughlin is the tallest player on the team and plays a big role in the press. The Jersey Blues do not have a 6-2 or 6-3 post player they have had in the past, so rebounding has been a team effort. Tia Curtis, a 5-10 forward from Monmouth Regional (Tinton Falls), Jana McCabe (Brick Township) and Blum are all averaging about five rebounds a game in what has been a collective effort under the glass. Zanetich, a 5-10 guard/forward, is one of the few veterans back from 2008-09, and Kerriann Cassarello (Keansburg) is a 5-9 forward who is another talented freshman on the team. They have been helping out on the glass, too, with Zanetich pulling down 4.7 rpg. a game and Cassarello grabbing 5.7 rpg. The Jersey Blues are averaging 45 rebounds per game, but only Martinez is averaging double figures. This edition of the Jersey Blues resembles teams of the past that also employed full-court pressure. The Jersey Blues are averaging 10 steals a game and like previous Brookdale teams, everyone on the roster has been making a contribution. Kayla Borden (Freehold Township), Victoria Finelli (Brick Township), and Shannon Sharkey (Southern Regional) complete the talented incoming freshman class that has played so well. Jessica Liubicich (Middletown North) is a 6-0 forward who is the only other returner from the 2008-09 team. In Brookdale’s 72-40 romp over Cumberland, Martinez led the way with her third straight double-double (15 points, 10 rebounds). Blum also had a double-double with 12 points and 11 rebounds (a season high). DeTata handed out seven assists while scoring nine points, and Finelli had a career-high 10 rebounds. The Jersey Blues have been on cruise control since the Delaware Tech game, winning four of their next six games by 30 points or more. On Dec. 12 Brookdale improved to 7-0 with a 71-60 home victory over Northampton Community College of Pennsylvania. Martinez established a school record with 30 rebounds. She topped the old mark of 27 rebounds set by current assistant coach Jen Thompson. She added a team-high 19 points Blum scored 18 points and also had three assists. Brookdale is the defending Garden State Athletic Conference champion. This is the 10th season that Campacci and Cobb have been coaching the Jersey Blues. They have led the team to seven GSAC championships. They expect to reach 200 wins at the Lincroft college in the near future (they have 193 after the Cumberland victory). Brookdale’s next home game will be on Dec. 22 against Sussex County Community College in a GSAC game that tips off at 5 p.m. BY TIM MORRIS Staff Writer
VARSITY REPORT Middletown South High School sprinter Tatum Evarts runs her leg of the Eagles’ 4×200-meter relay at the Monmouth County Relays Jan. 2 at the Bennett Indoor Complex in Toms River. The Eagles finished 13th. MATT DENTON Matawan and Christian Brothers Academy (CBA) dominated the Monmouth County Relays.CBA captured the boys team title — after a meet-long battle with Matawan — by two points, 70-68. Matawan edged Rumson Fair Haven, 47-44, to win the girls championship.The meet was held Jan. 2 at the Bennett Indoor Complex in Toms River.Matawan swept both the pole vault relays in one of the highlights of the championships for the Huskies.Matt Isaacson matched the top vault in the state this winter, clearing 13-6. Justin Leonard’s 10-6 added up to a team total of 24-0.Nicole Macco vaulted 11-0 to lead the way for the girls. Isabella Viggiano cleared 8-0, which was good enough for the Huskies’ girls to win the relay. On the track, Matawan’s girls added two more relay titles.Taylor Davis, Samantha Anderson, Yasmin Ali and Catherine Brown won the 4×200-meter relay, nipping Marlboro by 0.06, 1:50.18-1:50.24.Taylor and Davis along with Danielle Cross and Emma Ellison took the 4×55 shuttle hurdles in 34.89 seconds. CBA athletes won sprint, hurdle, distance and field event relays on their way to edging Matawan.Jack DeVizia, Mike Zupko, MikeSomma and Tim Jacoutot won the 4×200- meters in 1:33.14. Zupko and Somma were joined by Chris Alexander andDrake Anzano on the winning 1,600Sprint Medley Relay (3:38.57).Hurdlers Colton Brooks, Chris Alexander, Joe DeSaye and Jacoutot took the 4×55 shuttle hurdles in 31.85.The Distance Medley was easily CBA’s with Nick Trigani, Colin Gowen, Josh Kruppa and Blaise Ferro clocking 10:37.22 to win by more than 13 seconds.Thrower Andrew Liskowitz unleashed a huge 55-11 in the shot as the Colts went one-two to win the shot put relay. Teammate Will Lutkewitte was second overall with his 48-7½ throw, They were the only throwers whose combined heaves exceeded 100 feet (104-4½).Liskowitz has the best throw in the state at 58-0.Matawan won three relays, including the pole vault.Sprinters Thomas Kalietta, Shawn Ramcheran, Matt Natoli and Greg Edwards won the 4×400 in 3:40.25. Nate Alston (6-0) and Khalilg Walton (5-6) won the high jump relay.Raritan won the boys 4×800 with the team of Joseph Cawley, Ian Crawford, Louis DiLaurenzio and Joseph Bitto. They beat CBA by 0.11, 8:18.15-8:18.26.Individual titles will be on the line Jan. 9 when the athletes return to Toms River for the Monmouth County Championships.
By WAYNE WITKOWSKI Correspondent Matawan Regional High School wide receiver Justin Ferrara has two more football games to play before heading off to a college career this fall, and they’ll be very interesting for him.Along with playing in the Monmouth- Ocean All-Star game July 16 at Long Branch, he’ll also take part in the New Jersey North- South All-Star game at the Kean University field where he’ll spend the four years of his college career. It’s also the same field where he caught the go-ahead touchdown in the Huskies’ 27-7 NJSIAA Central Jersey Group III championship victory over Carteret High School last December.Ferrara will play both all-star games with Matawan head coach John Kaye on the coaching staff. Kaye will coach the running backs in the Monmouth-Ocean game that will hold practices the week of July 10 at Shore Regional High School. Those running backs include Matawan’s Devon Spann, who rushed last season for 799 yards and 10 touchdowns, was selected for the Monmouth team and is headed for a college career at Montclair State University, as will Jake Weber, who also will play for the Monmouth All-Stars. Weber will play defensive end at Montclair State and also was an offensive lineman for the Huskies.Kaye will work with Ferrara directly as the offensive coordinator for the South team in the North-South game that will hold practices at Kean June 25-29.“I’m excited about coaching him. He’s an outstanding athlete,” said Kaye, who said his whole staff will work with the South All-Stars.Joe Martucci, who coaches running backs at Kean, was head coach at Matawan when Ferrara was a freshman before stepping down. During his 27-year tenure, Martucci coached the Huskies to 10 conference championships and five state championships while compiling a 197-81-1 record. Martucci also got his master’s degree in administration at Kean.James Pierce, another talented wide receiver for Matawan last season, is headed this fall to Moravian College.“We took every kid who wanted to play [in college] — four of them — and found a spot for them,” Kaye said, as nine players overall are graduating from the Huskies, who went 8-4 and won their last five games after starting off the season with back-toback, 31-10 losses to St. John Vianney High School and Rumson-Fair Haven Regional High School in Shore Conference A Central.Their last three wins came in the state playoffs, including an opening-round victory, 27- 6, over division rival Raritan High School, which Matawan beat earlier in the season, and a semifinal triumph, 23-20, over Ocean Township High School en route to the school’s seventh sectional title, tying it for most in the Shore with Brick Township High School.George Pearson, who became the starting quarterback in the third game of the season, returns after a sensational freshman season and so does Shawn Ramcheran, another wide receiver who starts his senior year this fall. Ramcheran caught the two insurance touchdown passes in the state championship game, both on underhand shovel passes. They’ll get reacquainted on the football field this summer along with a bunch of other young prospects and rising senior Dejohn Rodgers, nephew of Matawan football Hall of Famer Charlie Rodgers. The Huskies look to fill the wide receiver vacancies starting with 7-on-7 tournaments that take place June 20 at Monmouth University, which will draw 30 schools; and June 27 at Rutgers University, which will have 90 schools involved.Matawan also hosts a Monmouth 7-on-7 showcase July 13.Aliem Shaw, a rising junior, is among the prospects looking to fill the tight end spot held by Matt Liebowitz, who is headed to Montclair State but not looking to play football there.As for Spann’s running back spot, there’s nothing like a state championship to heighten interest for what Kaye says has been a solid offseason, and there are a half dozen or so halfback hopefuls.They’ll get in plenty of playbook work when Matawan returns to Hamilton College in Clinton, New York, July 5-9 for a team camp. Kaye said his entire coaching staff from last season is back. That includes defensive coordinator Sam Turner; former Matawan star and NFL veteran Jay Bellamy, who coaches defensive backs and special teams; Charlie Marsh, who coaches linebackers; Nick Christhakisis, who coaches quarterbacks and free safeties; Ken Mandeville, who coaches running backs; and Nick Citro, who coaches the defensive line.As for Matawan’s defensive side for next season, Rodgers and Ramcheran will return to the defensive backfield, along with outside linebacker Isaiah Phillip and nose tackle Andrew Conzo. Kicker Adam Elliott, who put kickoffs deep and hit the game-winning field goal from 26 yards out against Ocean Township with six seconds left, also is back, but the Huskies are in search of a new punter.The future rests on the shoulders of the 6-foot-1 Pearson, who already has drawn intense interest from Temple University. Kaye repeatedly has called Pearson special, and his staff said he has the makings of a superstar. Pearson threw for 1,755 yards on 51.7 percent completions with 12 touchdowns and 10 interceptions last season.
By Tony JimenezZach Johnson’s putter was as red-hot as the weather at Muirfield on Thursday, the 2007 U.S. Masters champion scorching his way to a five-under-par 66 to set a blistering pace in the British Open first round.While the American was making an electric start to the third major of the year, world number two Rory McIlroy crashed to an eight-over 79 and European Ryder Cup team mate Luke Donald ballooned to an 80.Tiger Woods has developed something of a penchant for errant first-hole tee shots and the world number one did it again on the east coast of Scotland, snap-hooking his three-wood deep into the rough to open with a bogey.The 14-times major champion bounced back, however, with four birdies on the back nine leaving him lurking ominously on 69.Mark O’Meara flew a surprise flag for the ‘golden oldies’, the 56-year-old American tucking into joint second place with Spaniard Rafael Cabrera-Bello on 67.One stroke further adrift were Americans Dustin Johnson, Brandt Snedeker and Tom Lehman, Miguel Angel Jimenez of Spain and India’s Shiv Kapur.Most of the players found the knee-high rough difficult to cope with and scores were high on the banks of the Firth of Forth.The parched and dry links course also made it tough for the 156-strong field to control the ball on the fairways and the greens but most of the complaints were about the fiendish pin positions laid out by the Royal & Ancient organisers.Zach Johnson proved to be the best of the bunch, waving his putter like a magic wand to birdie the third, sixth and seventh and eagle the long fifth.The 37-year-old made further inroads on par at the 12th before dropping his only stroke of the day at the 14th.“Any time you shoot under par in an Open or a major, for that matter, you have to be putting at least decent and I putted great,” Johnson told reporters as temperatures rose to a balmy 80 degrees in East Lothian.“This is the Open and you expect difficult conditions but a couple of the pin positions were pretty tough.”SUNDAY AGONYJohnson was pipped for the John Deere Classic title in Illinois on Sunday when he lost in a playoff to 19-year-old compatriot Jordan Speith.“I felt great about last week, I’ll be honest with you,” he said. “What I’ve embraced is the fact I’m playing great and I can put that into play and I’m certainly confident in what I’m doing.”O’Meara matched Johnson’s start with a barnstorming run of four birdies in six holes. Another birdie at the ninth took him to the turn in 31 before he faltered with a bogey at the 10th.The veteran criticised the way some of his fellow competitors complained about the flag positions.“I’m not a big fan of guys who whine a lot,” said 1998 British Open champion O’Meara. “I don’t see any reason for it.“Especially today’s generation, they’re so talented. The greens got pretty quick for an Open championship but I didn’t see it being unfair.”Early starter Ian Poulter led the carping after his 72.“Unfortunately the guys this afternoon will struggle with a few pin positions,” the Briton said on his Twitter feed. “8th hole is a joke, 18th needs a windmill & clown face.”The first round was no laughing matter for McIlroy who said he suffered a “brain dead” moment when he putted the ball into a bunker at the 15th and felt he was generally “unconscious” all the way round.The Northern Irishman, whose form has deserted him since he changed clubs at the start of the year after signing a mega-bucks deal with Nike, sported a look of sad resignation when he walked off the 18th green.“Sometimes I feel like I’m walking around out there and I’m unconscious,” said McIlroy. “It’s nothing to do with technique, it’s all mental.“I feel like I’ve been walking around out there like that for the last couple of months. It’s a very alien feeling, something I’ve never felt before.”U.S. Open champion Justin Rose slipped to a 75 and title holder Ernie Els could only manage a 74 that included a double-bogey six at the 16th where he needed three strokes to get out of a greenside bunker.Woods, bidding to end a five-year wait for a major triumph, also said conditions were testing.“There wasn’t a lot of talking out there because we’re trying to grind it out. It’s one of those courses where it just got so difficult,” said the American.“Some of these putts today, I mean, I putted the ball off the green and it really wasn’t that bad a putt. Anything that goes four feet by, it was gone.”
By Toby DavisManchester United reached the FA Cup fifth round and avoided any further embarrassment against stubborn fourth-tier side Cambridge United with a 3-0 replay win at Old Trafford that did little to excite their fans.After drawing 0-0 at Cambridge, who were promoted from the minor leagues last season, United eventually made their superiority tell with goals from Juan Mata, Marcos Rojo and James Wilson, although it was a largely laboured display.Louis van Gaal’s side, who almost fell behind in the first minute when Cambridge striker Tom Elliott hit the post, will next play third-tier Preston North End, who beat cup specialists Sheffield United 3-1 away in their fourth round replay.Second-tier Fulham flirted with an upset against Premier League visitors Sunderland after taking a first-half lead, but were eventually beaten 3-1 after conceding three times in the last half-hour at Craven Cottage.Cambridge, the lowest ranked team to reach the fourth round, were already big winners having guaranteed themselves a bumper payday of about one million pounds from gate receipts and TV money – a huge sum for a team at their level.The Cambridge chairman said their mighty windfall would be spent on building new toilets at their run-down Abbey Stadium. Any hopes they had of producing one of the biggest shocks in cup history, however, were flushed down the pan.They had a great chance to stun their illustrious opponents after one minute when Elliott raced on to a poor ball from Daley Blind, but his curling effort struck the post and Cambridge’s resistance quickly wilted.United midfielder Marouane Fellaini headed an Angel Di Maria cross back towards Mata who poked it in off the bar after 25 minutes and Rojo scored his first for the club when he headed in a deft cross from Robin van Persie just past the half-hour.Substitute James Wilson fired in left-footed from the edge of the box to round off the win after 74 minutes in an efficient display where again the result trumped the performance.“We have done what we had to,” Van Gaal told the BBC.“Tonight, I don’t think we played a very good match. But it is always difficult against a defensive team. We could have done better but I am pleased with the result.”Sunderland fell behind to a close-range Hugo Rodallega goal for Fulham after 28 minutes but a Marcus Bettinelli own goal, Ricky Alvarez strike and Jordi Gomez penalty put them through.
By Simon JenningsArch-rivals Jose Mourinho and Arsene Wenger found themselves in the spotlight for all the wrong reasons after another miserable night for English clubs in theChampions League.Chelsea and Arsenal lost on Tuesday night to Porto and Olympiakos Piraeus respectively, leaving their managers on the back foot and defending their team selections.While Mourinho said he was right to leave Radamel Falcao and Loic Remy at home after Chelsea lost their Group G tie against his former club, Wenger defended replacing goalkeeper Petr Cech with David Ospina after his team fell to their second defeat in Group F.Mourinho, whose Chelsea side are struggling in 14th in the Premier League, indicated before the game he would ring the changes, and duly left Remy, Falcao and Oscar at home, while Eden Hazard was restricted to the bench.The decision to travel without an extra striker backfired, as the Portuguese did not have an established forward to call upon despite seeing his team fall behind twice in the 2-1 defeat.When asked if he regretted leaving Falcao and Remy behind and whether they were being punished for their poor form, Mourinho said: “No.”“No punishment, no punishment. Just a decision,” he added.Chelsea are now third in Group G behind Porto and Dynamo Kiev. Mourinho said his team did not play poorly. “It’s normal, when the team are not winning matches, you have to make changes, but games like Tuesday are difficult to analyse because the result doesn’t mean you played badly,” he said.Wenger was in a far more irritable mood after the 3-2 defeat by the Greeks resulted in his choice of keeper being questioned.The game hinged on a calamitous mistake by Ospina, who failed to collect an inswinging corner and let the ball drop over the line, gifting Olympiakos a 2-1 lead five minutes before the break.“You cannot select the team by making a poll before the game and getting everyone’s opinion,” Wenger said. “It’s always a simple thing to say Ospina shouldn’t have played.“No goalkeeper is mistake-free– it could have happened to Petr Cech as well.“But I don’t have to sit here and give you an explanation of every decision I make. We did not lose the game because of that mistake, that’s a farce.”
By Toby DavisLeicester City won 1-0 at Tottenham Hotspur to rekindle their unlikely Premier League title challenge and draw level at the top with Arsenal who conceded a late goal to draw 3-3 at Liverpool on Wednesday night.Those predicting Leicester would fade into the background of the championship race got a wake-up call when Robert Huth headed an 83rd-minute winner against fourth-placed Spurs at White Hart Lane.Arsenal had looked like going four points clear at the summit before Huth scored and Joe Allen came off the bench to grab a dramatic late equaliser for Liverpool.Arsenal had twice trailed to superb goals from Roberto Firmino but battled back to take a 3-2 lead thanks to two Olivier Giroud strikes.Third-placed Manchester City stayed three points off the top after being held to a 0-0 draw at home by Everton.Champions Chelsea continued to confound as they were twice pegged back in a 2-2 home draw with West Bromwich Albion and Sunderland’s bid to stay up was boosted when Jermain Defoe grabbed a hat-trick in a 4-2 win over relegation rivals Swansea City.Norwich City were dragged towards the relegation scrap after losing 3-1 at Stoke and Southampton won their first match in three with a 2-0 home victory over Watford.